Sometime in 2004 I started making traditional Sunday breakfasts, featuring pancakes and bacon; and never stopped, so there’s a tenth anniversary coming up. I’ve learned enough about them now to offer tips both on them, and on what you put on them. Which matters, because pancakes, un-topped, are kind of boring.

  • Mix it up. As in, try different mixes, both noveau-organic and traditional-home-style. The differences are surprising.

  • Maple syrup! Normally everyone buys “Canada #1” but health-food stores will have other options; some of the darker shades with numbers that aren’t 1 have deliciously smoky flavors.

  • Most mixes and recipes have a lot of baking powder aimed at giving you big thick fluffy pancakes. When I make it from scratch I use less, and when I use mixes I up the liquids to force them a little thinner. But if you like fluffy that’s OK.

  • Honey! In particular, I like a powerful buckwheat honey. I remember my botanist Dad grumbling over the breakfast table that they should never have called that plant a word containing “wheat”; it’s more closely related to rhubarb.

  • When you’re running low on batter, finish off with a great big honking extra-size pancake (see below), and award it to whichever kid is particularly deserving.

  • Pancake!
  • Fresh fruit! Berries are good and for my money fresh blueberries are best. Combine them with a syrup or honey for best effect.

  • Try putting the fruit in the batter; once again, it’s blueberries for the win.

  • Pflaumenmus!

  • You can cook ’em on a traditional cast-iron skillet or a newfangled nonstick thingie. My results are about the same either way. Don’t try to cook more than three at a time unless you have a really big surface.

  • Jam jam jam! I already mentioned pflaumenmus, but any good strong fruit preserve can be a source of happiness. Last year, Heather Flanagan gave us some home-made rhubarb/lavender jam, and it was to die for. Especially on pancakes.

  • Preheat; you gotta get to know your oven/pan combination. There has to be a pretty vigorous sizzle when you drop the batter, and bubbles need to start appearing almost immediately.

  • Exotic syrups! Fruit syrups, golden syrup, and so on.

  • All from-scratch pancake recipes are about the same. For my family of four you need a couple cups of flour, roughly the same volume of fluids comprising mostly milk and some eggs and oil or butter, a teaspoon or three of baking powder (see above), maybe a little sugar to caramelize the surface.

    Just fool with the proportions or type a recipe search into the Internet and pick the first that comes back; it’ll come out OK.

Extras · Bacon (details here), grapefruit juice, and really strong coffee. Brewed coffee, no espresso nonsense.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Dave Pawson (Aug 18 2014, at 00:19)

Tim, try a knob of melted butter in the mix. Wipe the pan for the first pancake to give it a little grease, thereafter none needed as the butter in the mix is sufficient, even on an old iron pan.


From: Dirkjan Ochtman (Aug 18 2014, at 01:37)

I like making really thin pancakes (actually more like crêpes). I think a pretty well-accepted addition to the batter (around here) is a dash of beer; might want to try it some time.


From: Mike (Aug 18 2014, at 03:15)

Applesauce is among the best pancake toppings.


From: David Magda (Aug 18 2014, at 04:16)

For bacon, you may want to check out this technique from America's Test Kitchen:

Now that Alton Brown is off the air, they're the last show that really goes down into the details of how things work (in addition to their Cook's Illustrated magazine).


From: Blaine Cook (Aug 18 2014, at 04:36)

You forgot to mention Kaiserschmarrn ( - while I'm not a fan of how they do it auf Deutschland, if you're ever in SF on a Sunday and have an hour or two to kill in a queue, Suppenkuche in Hayes Valley do an amazing take on it. Even without the visit, the internet provides:


From: Ric Hayman (Aug 18 2014, at 05:07)

If you like a strong-flavoured honey, and you can find it - leatherwood honey from Tasmania (Australia).


From: John Cowan (Aug 18 2014, at 05:53)

Plain pancakes are *not* boring, no more than classic French cuisine is boring because it's not all peppers all the time. They are one of the subtle pleasures of taste, like cottage cheese or Cantonese Chinese food (derived from Chinese classic cuisine, by the way: all that Northern stuff is half-barbarian). Also, when you don't gunk up pancakes, you can pick 'em up, roll 'em into a tube, and nibble on the tube: infantine delights.


From: Leonardo Herrera (Aug 18 2014, at 07:54)

Espresso *is* brewed coffee.


From: Olivier (Aug 18 2014, at 08:14)

I can't believe Nutella isn't mentioned !


From: Phil (Aug 18 2014, at 09:54)

My dad taught me a trick that works anywhere you are cooking, whether at home, a cheap hotel, or on pan in a camp fire....

When you think the cooking surface is hot enough, dip your fingers in water and flick them on the pan, if the water forms balls that skate across the surface it is perfect. If the water pools, you are tool cool. If the water vaporizes instantly, too hot!


From: Aurélien (Aug 18 2014, at 11:32)

Banana pancakes, they are the best ! You have to cook them inside the pancake.


From: Michael Seymour (Aug 18 2014, at 14:26)

To make your pancakes uber - fluffy try beating the egg whites and folding them in just at the end. This allows you to tone down the baking powder a bit which sometimes leaves a chemical taste ( at least to me). Every time I visit Canada I stock up on #2 amber syrup, much better than #1 light. PS the egg white thing comes from "Joy of Cooking".


From: Brad Smith (Aug 18 2014, at 20:06)

My wife and I cook either pancakes or waffles on Sunday with bacon or link sausage. For the last 4 or 5 years these waffles/pancakes have been made with sourdough starter I have growing in crock on the counter. We mix it up with spelt or cornmeal or buckwheat (half and half with a good all purpose flour), various kinds of fruits in or on the results. We buy Bob's Red Mill flours since they are an Oregon product and we live in Oregon but there are plenty of wonderful millers out there. And syrup? Maple grade B bought in bulk from a local natural food store. Perhaps Grade B is equivalent to the "not #1" in Canada?


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